Short Track Power - A Speed51.com Exclulsive
The Final Rankings of 2007
Pole Position – John Blewett, III (Mods) – When an aviator is lost in battle, a missing man formation is flown in their honor. When a racer is lost, often times a pace lap or two is run with the pole position open to pay respect.
So it is only appropriate that the 2007 Power Rankings leave the pole position open for a fallen hero of the short track world. This year we lost one of the truest racers of all-time. John Blewett, III was talented, personable, feisty, determined, nasty, dedicated and just an all-around good racer. Put him in any racecar and he would put it up front. There are not many racers that can say that.
Blewett died doing what he loved, driving a NASCAR Modified. He wasn’t just driving it either, he was battling for the lead when he wrecked. JBIII was a hardcore racer right down to the end.
But John will be remembered for much more than the race he won – and he won a lot from Florida to New Hampshire and at just about every track that runs Modifieds in between. Most importantly, he’ll be remembered for doing what we loved the most about him, just being John.
1. Joey Logano (Busch East, 3.63 Rating) – Joey Logano was the only driver who earned a spot on the ballot of every single Power Rankings panelist. He gathered up the majority of first place votes as well. His ranking at number one really isn’t a surprise. In fact, since he started out the year by winning both the NASCAR West Series opener at Phoenix and is his Busch East Series debut at Greenville, people just expected excellence from this teen driver – and Logano delivered.
John Blewett, III was a powerful racer. For that fact, and much more, he will be missed.
“Same crap we’ve been saying all year,” said one panelist.
“Here is a kid that makes you say, Wow!” said another. “He did everything expected of him and then some in the Grand National divisions of NASCAR this year.”
The fact that Logano had never even entered a NASCAR Touring Series race before this season also helped him with the judges – and might have tipped him over the top when it came to an overall power victory.
“What can we say? The only reason he’s higher then Lia is because he’s a rookie,” wrote one of our panelists.
What is next? Well, Logano plans to make his NASCAR Nationwide Series (formerly Busch Series) debut for Joe Gibbs Racing just after his birthday next year, leaving the short track community left to only claim of the first time that they saw him race – whether it was on the old ASA National Tour, USAR Pro Cup Series or in NASCAR Busch East competition.
“He is certainly destined for big things and his star shined brightly while he performed in the minors,” said one of our voters.
Logano might have even scored higher with our judges, but that powerhouse team could have hurt him a little bit because he was almost expected to be great.
“While most people agree he’s one of the most talented racers to come along in a long time, he should have done exactly what he did this year in those series’ with the team he’s driving for (Joe Gibbs Racing),” wrote our of our voters.
Victory lane was where Joey Logano ended many of his race days in 2007. That's powerful stuff. (Jim DuPont Photo)
2. Donny Lia (Mods, 3.88 Rating) – It might be appropriate that Lia finished in the runner-up spot of the Power Rankings because half of our panelists had him listed as number two (to various first choice picks) on their lists. However, Lia wasn’t used to finishing second on the racetrack in 2008. He started out the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season on fire – winning five of the first eight events on the schedule. He backed that up with a big win at Martinsville and the championship, but we have to wonder if he might have just set the cruise control on his Mystic Missile a little bit going down the final stretch of the season, to avoid taking risks and losing a shot at the title. After Martinsville, Lia didn’t win again.
But still, his 2007 season was far ahead of what most racers could even dream of.
“He had a big year on the Mod Tour,” wrote one of our panelists. “Six wins in 15 starts..and oh yeah, he won the championship as well.”
Lia earned one first place vote from our panel and was mentioned on all but one ballot.
Will Lia be back in contention for any 2008 Power Rankings? That remains to be seen. The Modster is said to be working on putting together a ride in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series for the full season next year, so he might have just graduated to the big leagues. We'll have to wait and see.
3. Brett Hearn (DIRT, 6.50 Rating) – Hearn won more races than anyone else in the
Donny Lia had his #4 Mystic Missile out front a lot in 2007. (Hodge Photo)
Besides, based on his performances in 2007, Williams was more than just an honorable mention. We always knew that this Mainer had plenty of potential, but this year he showed it by notching three straight PASS South victories and winning in his ASA Late Model debut for David Stremme.
The final portion of the season brought some bad luck for the young racer, which might have hurt his chances in this poll with those who have short memories. At Hickory, he got a little rough and didn’t finish the PASS South race as a result. At Pensacola, he wasn’t allowed to run a Blizzard race after making the trip there because his Northern-style engine wasn’t allowed to run and at Concord strange things really happened when he was leading going into the last corner and a car spun in front of him. Williams avoided a wreck, while the more experienced Ben Rowe knew the PASS rulebook a little better and as a result, raced back to the caution flag and won the Mason-Dixon Meltdown.
Honorable Mentions (received votes from our panel, but not enough to top the list)
(in alphabetical order)
Kirk Alexander (TVMRS) – Every time he races, Kirk Alexander seems to rewrite the True Value Modified Racing Series record book. He now has 26 career victories (at least one at every track where the series visits) and three titles in just four seasons of the series’ existence.
Then again, Hearn’s performance shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who has watched a DIRT race anytime in the last few decades.
“How many times has he won 'Mr. DIRT'?” asked one of our panelists. “And he
is still going strong.”
4. Nathan Haseleu (SLM / ASA MW / WCS and More, 6.75 Rating) – By beating up on the competition in the upper Midwest, Haseleu earned several first place votes from our poll as well – second to only Joey Logano in that department actually. But the fact that the tours might not be as flashy or well known as some of the NASCAR Tours out there, might have hurt this racer just a bit.
“He might not be a household name – even in some short track households,” said one voter. “But he sure did get the job done in 2007.”
“No other driver won in three different series,” said another one of our panel members. “He had wins in CRA, ASA Midwest and the Wisconsin Challenge Series. He also won the title in the ASA Midwest series and the Wisconsin Challenge Series.”
Brett Hearn finished third in our voting by running a series that we don't even regularly cover. Now that is powerful! (51 Photo)
Northeast portion of the United States, according to Area Auto Racing News. In addition to that, he won the 2007 Advance Auto Parts Super DirtCar Series championship for the sixth time in his career. Hearn didn’t get to be number one on anyone’s ballot, and a few of our panel overlooked him, but those who did select him usually placed him in their top five.
6. Ryan Lawler (PASS South / CRA / ARCA, 8.13 Rating) - This young man had never raced in a Super Late Model…or any type of Late Model before 2006’s Easter Bunny 150 PASS South race. Now, less than two years later, he is the reigning PASS South champion.
“Somebody needs to give this kid a shot,” wrote of our esteemed experts. “He’s always smiling and he may be a bit goofy at times, but he’s got the look and he certainly can drive. The Texas native won races and the title in the ultra competitive PASS South Tour and also surprised a bunch of folks by taking the victory in one of the crown jewels of asphalt short track racing, the Winchester 400.”
7. Bobby Gill (Pro Cup / SLM, 8.25 Rating) – The plus-40 crowd did pretty good in the power categories in 2007. Look no further than Bobby Gill for proof of that. This grizzly old veteran had the young stand up and take notice that he’s not done winning races and championships. Gill grabbed yet another USAR Hooters Pro Cup title this season.
Burt Myers (MODS) – Multiple wins and poles in ASA Southern Modified Tour (where he was the champion), the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour (where he contended for the title) and Bowman Gray Stadium Mod racing (where he won another championship).
Chris Perley (Supermodifieds) - How long has he dominated the ISMA Super scene? Perley and Vic Miller are every bit as dominate as the Dunnigan/Allegresso combination with any driver.
Mike Rowe (PASS / ACT LM) – He lost out on the PASS North title to his son Ben, but nobody was as powerful in PASS North competition this year as the elder Rowe. He won four times and was quick just about everywhere he went. He also had some strong races in a Late Model and even won in lawnmower racing.
Tim Russell (SLM / ARCA / Sunbelt) – Mr. Consistent. His stats were - 28 starts, 3 wins, 20 top five finishes and 25 finished in the top ten. The FASCAR champion may have not visited victory lane often but he was always lurking in the top five each week.
Bobby Santos, III (MODS / ARCA / USAC) - Won at Turkey Night in the debut of the Toyota Sprint Motor. Put Ole Blue back in victory lane in it's 50th year...He also had some impressive ARCA races this past season as well.
8. Ben Rowe (PASS / ACT / Mods, 9.00 Rating) – Another PASS North title for Ben Rowe makes it four total for the second-generation driver. Despite only three wins he did score 14 top fives in 18 starts in PASS events. He won in Florida and he had a solid run at the Rattler. The biggest moment of them all though was winning the Mason-Dixon Meltdown after a making a split-second decision to keep the hammer down when cars were spinning in the final few hundred feet of the race.
9. (Tie) Matt Hawkins (Pro Cup / PLM, 9.13 Rating) – This young driver stepped up into a career season in 2007 and believe it or not, things could have been even bigger for him. He won twice in Pro Cup, but had both the World Crown 250 and the Snowball Derby slip through his fingers in the closing laps.
There were dozens and dozens of different drivers who received votes in the 2007 Power Rankings. Their diversity was amazing – with just about every major short track series represented somewhere. In fact, only the USAR Pro Cup Series and PASS South placed two of their own in the top 10 of the prestigious rankings this time around. The battle eventually came down to a pair of young NASCAR Touring stars, as you’ll see in a minute. But even though those two drivers might have gathered the biggest trophies of the year, it was one other racer who controlled the heart strings of our panel…
5. Steve Carlson (NASCAR WAAS, 7.25 Rating) - Steve Carlson is the all-time winningest driver on the now defunct NASCAR Midwest Series. He won nine-championships there, but when NASCAR dropped that perimeter-type of Late Model series off the map a couple years ago, he was left with a void. He filled that void by becoming a NASCAR National champ for the first time in his illustrious career in 2007 by winning the NASCAR Weekly Racing crown for the entire US.
That caught the eyes of our panelists. Carlson was ranked in the top five on every single ballot where he appeared – ranking pretty high up on some lists. Unfortunately though, several other panelists overlooked him completely – leading him to a top five finish, but not a win this time out.
Ryan Lawler had a powerful Hamke racecar in 2007.
9. (Tie) Augie Grill (SLM, 9.13 Rating) - One weekend does not a season make, but when that one weekend is the Snowball Derby, and the 40th annual one to boot, that weighs heavily on the scales of Power. Grill put in a performance like no other at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL. He ran away with the conclusion of the Snowball Derby to pull into victory lane. It was the third time h had been graced with that honor; once as a kid, once as a crew chief and now once as a driver).
And let’s not forget about his performance in the Snowflake the night before. He
led a good portion of that one only to finish third. The best thing of all, both of his
cars that weekend passed the dreaded tech area of Ricky Brooks.
10. Corey Williams (PASS / ASA LM, 9.38 Rating) – Well technically with a tie for ninth, he should have dropped to the honorable mention page, but you can’t really end a top 10 list with a pair of ninth placers can you?
What Augie Grill did with a pair of #112s at Five Flags Speedway earned him a spot on the Power Tower.
In one of the year's most powerful moments, Jimmy Blewett not only returned to Thompson Speedway to race after his brother's death in a race there, he came back and won. Here he appears in victory lane to be interviewed by Matt Buckler and congratulated by fellow racer Woody Pitkat. (Rick Ibsen Photo)
Jimmy Blewett (MODS) – Showed power on the track by dominating Florida Speedweeks and winning a Mod Tour race at Wall, then he showed power off the track by coming back to race, and win, again after the death of his brother – John Blewett, III.
Jonathan Chandler (PRO CHALLENGE) - Five season wins and a national championship in Pro Challenge.
Jeff Choquette (SLM / ASA LM) – ASA LM South champ also scored his second Governor Cup win in Florida.
Jean Paul Cyr (ACT) – Won a record fifth straight, and seven overall, ACT Late Model championship against some stiff competition this season – by an impressive margin too. But not winning a single feature might have hurt his score with our judges.
Travis Dassow (ASA LM) – Dassow stepped up to become a winner and then a champion in the ASA Late Model Challenge Series. The fact that the ASA LM season ended earlier than most series and because our judges appear to have short memories, might have hurt his score a wee bit.
Russell Fleeman (GAS / SLM) – Went on a tear in the Georgia Asphalt Series before winning the title and had some impressive SLM races as well.
Dan Fredrickson (ASA MW) – Won a bunch with a Hamke car in the ASAMWT.
Chris Gabehart (CRA) – Won the CRA title and some big shows along the way, including the Circle Track Nationals.
Frank Kimmel (ARCA) – Another year, another ARCA RE/MAX Series championship for Frank Kimmel. What more can we say?
Clay Hair (Legends) – Won multiple legends races during the year, won Summer Shootout title, won National Title, won Nationals in Vegas and capped off the season with a Mason-Dixon Meltdown victory
Kyle Hall (LMSC) – Three wins in rookie season at Old Dominion Speedway; youngest driver to win a LMSC at Old Dominion Speedway; got Rookie of the Year title at ODS and finished second in track points for season.
Jan Leaty (RoC MODS) – He won THE Race of Champions at Oswego at a stage of his career when most drivers would be hanging it up.
Matt Hirschman (MODS – All Types) - Back-to-back Shootout wins, some RoC victories and a big open show win at All-Star Speedway.
Paul Kelley (GAS / PLM ) - He won the two biggest races in Georgia the State Championship at Lanier and his third World Crown 250. Despite a mid season slump he ended with four wins all one hundred lappers or more.
Patrick Laperle (ACT) – He started out the 2007 season in the ICU of a hospital with a bad illness and missed the ACT Quebec Series opener. But he came back to overcome the points deficit and win that title…and he won the Milk Bowl at Thunder Road (again).
LW Miller (MODS) – From his victory the season-opener at Caraway Speedway to being honored as the champion at the banquet, the 2007 NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour season had this Miller’s name written all over it.
Donny Schatz (WoO) – The new 'King' of the Outlaws. New deal, new ride. One heck of a racer with a great future. In 2007, he scored his second straight WoO title with 19 wins.
Jarod Seifert (IMCA) - IMCA Modified National champion didn't draw too much recognition, but beat an outstanding field of 35+ cars each night and one not one, but three track championships on his way to the national crown. Pretty impressive season.
Todd Shute (IMCA) – Beat 340+ cars to win what has probably become the toughest short track race in the country when he won the 25th Anniversary of the Speedway Motors IMCA Super Nationals.
Casey Smith (SLM) – Two track championships (South Alabama and Mobile) and a consistent finisher everywhere he goes.
Gary St. Amant (Pro Cup / SLM) – Someone would probably throw him a vote for just being such a nice guy, but his appearance here has to do with power and not pity. St. Amant added another chapter to his long racing resume in 2007 by winning the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Northern title.
Nick Stroupe (Pro Challenge / Bandos) – Four Bando wins and two Pro Challenge wins in limited schedule for each division and the kid is still barely tall enough to see over his steering wheel!
John Van Doorn (SLM / Outlaw SLM) - Breakout season. Nearly won the Winchester 400, but did win All American 400. Would be higher if he could’ve put together a ride for Snowball.
Matt Hirschman won some high profile races in the fall once again this season. Here, he is shown in victory lane at New Hampshire's All-Star Speedway. (Rick Ibsen Photo)